Metal Health under the magnifying glass

Children on mental health wards at five-year high

The amount of days young people spend in child and adolescent mental health units has hit a five-year high, figures reveal.

Under-18s spent 84,501 days on young people’s mental health wards in England and Wales in the first half of 2009/10. This covers the period April to September.

This is the highest number of bed days since collection of such data began in 2005, compared with the same six-month period in previous years.

The figures were published this month in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Labour MP Natasha Engel.

The statistics also show the government is failing to meet a pledge that no children should be treated on adult psychiatric wards.

Children spent 32 days in adult mental health units in the first half of 2009/10. This exceeds the number of days in 2008/09, which amounted to 23.

The government made a committment in November 2006 to stop under-16s being treated on adult mental health wards by November 2008.

But a Department of Health spokewoman said the number of bed days for children and young people aged under 18 varies from quarter to quarter.

And she said there has been a fall, since 2006, in the percentage of bed days for under-18s being treated on adult psychiatric wards.

The spokeswoman said: “The government remains committed to reducing the number of bed days for under-16s on adult psychiatric wards to zero.

“We are working with the trusts that have reported bed days to find out how this has occurred and to ensure it does not happen again.”

The lowest number of days that young people spent in menal health units during the first half of a year was in 2006/07 when the figure was 72,357.

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